Writing Can Be a Healthy Coping Mechanism, Not Just an Escape Route

Writing is more than just an escape from reality. It can help you on your journey back into it, too.


Have you ever heard a writer describe their process as a way to “escape” from reality? Have you ever described your process this way to yourself or someone else?

There are times when writing takes us away from the circumstances we are not ready to face. It sweeps us off into a different time and place, where we can worry more about our characters and their situations than about our own in the real world.

And in those times when we need a break and need to get away from it all for awhile, this is fine. Healthy, even.

But what about when we’re ready to face those things that have been holding us back? What about when we can’t avoid them any longer?

That is when writing becomes a coping mechanism, instead of an escape.

It’s hard enough to fight off the negative feelings and memories that come with going through something difficult. Our most recent novella was about cancer, so we will use that as an example throughout the rest of this post.

How do you cope with having cancer, when you cannot physically face it (in the sense that you cannot talk to it or give it a well-deserved punch in the face)? For awhile, writing can certainly be your escape from the confusion and uncertainty. But eventually, you have to deal with it.

Maybe writing about cancer as someone who is going through cancer seems a little cliche. But who knows cancer better than someone who has dealt with it firsthand?

Writing about what you are going through helps you deal with the emotions associated with the issue you are facing.

Which is important, because, if you haven’t figured it out by now, if we are not psychologically healthy, everything else becomes a lot harder to handle.

Not to mention the fact that basically characters are just like people (almost), and when you write a character who understands the exact thoughts and feelings you are having related to your experience, it’s almost like you’re talking to someone else who has been through what you’re going through.

Being able to look at your circumstances almost through the eyes of someone else is a luxury people who don’t use writing as a coping mechanism just don’t have.

Why should you care?

Writing can help you with anything. Whether you are journaling or crafting a story centered on the issue at hand, whether you end up sharing your words with someone else or not, words really can heal. Not necessarily the body, but the spirit.

Maybe you are at a point in your life where you are questioning whether or not what you do every day is even worth it. Maybe you feel stuck, and there isn’t anyone to talk to about it. Maybe there’s something way back in your past that you’ve buried, but never got over.

Maybe you’re just lonely.

Writing can be a great escape. But never underestimate how much of an impact writing can also have on the process of recovery and healing, no matter how minor or severe the tragedy. You are never alone, but if you feel isolated, you still have your words. Let them speak when you cannot.

Image courtesy of Alpha/flickr.com.

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